BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders on Thursday supplied new incentives to Turkey to enhance cooperation on migration and trade despite democratic backsliding within the nation and lingering concerns about its power ambitions within the Mediterranean Sea.
Seizing on the latest conciliatory tone from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leaders stated, ought to the relative calm proceed, “the European Union is ready to engage with Turkey in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner to enhance cooperation in a number of areas of common interest.”
This contains “a mandate for the modernization” of customs preparations, the longer term launch of “high level dialogues” on points just like the pandemic, local weather change, counter-terrorism and regional points, and strengthened cooperation “on people-to-people contacts and mobility.”
The “customs union” settlement between the EU and Turkey eliminated duties on most Turkish items and produce coming into the 27-nation bloc, however has not functioned in addition to the federal government in Ankara would really like.
The leaders additionally ordered the EU’s govt physique, the European Commission, to construct on the EU-Turkey migrant settlement from 2016 and discover methods to proceed to help finance the estimated 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, in addition to these in Jordan and Lebanon.
That deal massively lowered migrant arrivals into the Greek islands, in comparison with 2015 when a whole bunch of 1000’s of individuals landed on European shores. Under it, the EU supplied Ankara 6 billion euros ($7.1 billion) to help Syrian refugees and different incentives to stop individuals from leaving Turkey to go to Europe.
The EU believes the deal saved numerous lives, stopped most individuals from making an attempt to cross the Aegean Sea to Greek islands like Lesbos and Samos, and improved life for refugees in Turkey. It desires to make use of the settlement as a mannequin for related preparations with nations in North Africa.
But assist teams say the pact created open-air prisons the place 1000’s have languished in squalid circumstances on the Greek islands whereas others have been blocked in Turkey.
The settlement floor to a standstill a yr in the past because the coronavirus unfold and after Turkey inspired 1000’s of migrants to depart, sparking clashes on the Greek border. Still, the EU is determined for Turkey’s help to maintain migration in examine, and in December prolonged two applications for Syrian refugees in Turkey value nearly half a billion euros (practically $600 million) over a yr.
But amid the offers, the leaders did warn that provocations by Turkey will immediate the EU to “use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its member states, as well as to uphold regional stability.”
The EU leaders stated they are going to assess progress once more on EU-Turkey ties once they meet in June.
EU diplomats stated earlier than their videoconference summit that the leaders wished to benefit from a lull in tensions between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey within the jap Mediterranean and to keep away from any threats or sanctions that might undermine a brand new peace effort for divided Cyprus.
Periods of calm in EU-Turkey relations have rapidly come and gone, and worrying developments regarding human and political rights in Turkey have continued.
Over the weekend, Erdogan ended his nation’s participation within the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention aimed toward stopping violence in opposition to ladies. The transfer was a blow to Turkey’s ladies’s rights motion, which says home violence and femicide are on the rise.
Last week, the EU criticized Turkish authorities for stripping a outstanding pro-Kurdish legislator of his parliamentary seat and searching for to close down his political celebration.
Samuel Petrequin and Raf Casert contributed to this report.